School Reform Arts Integration
When people ask me for the short answer on the power of arts integration, I tell them, "school reform." When they ask for a solid example, I tell them to look up the work of the Kenan Institute and North Carolina's "A+ Schools." This program was quite powerful in demonstrating not only arts integration's promises but also its ability to act as a driver of school reform:
The A+ Schools Program, sponsored by the Kenan Institute for the Arts,
is a comprehensive school reform that views the arts as fundamental to how teachers teach and how students learn. The A+ approach to learning draws on Howard Gardner’s (1983, 1991) extensive research on multiple intelligences and other recent research on the brain and learning. By design, A+ rejects the dichotomy of creativity vs. instrumentality that historically has constrained the role of the arts in education reform. Rather than seeing the arts and the creative thinking they foster as necessarily distinct from core academic subjects, A+’s premise is that the arts can open up deeper understandings of the curriculum precisely because their creativity taps into the multiple ways that students learn. A+ is a truly comprehensive education reform because it begins with a vision of arts-integrated instruction creating enhanced learning opportunities for all students. Other changes in school practice, in areas ranging from assessment to scheduling to parent involvement, radiate out as necessary to achieve that central vision (A+ Lessons [4-page pdf]).
Some of the most powerful findings in this project are, reform doesn't end when the pilot does, investments in human capital result in a resilient reform, leveraging the power of a network, adopting a school-wide approach to professional development, emphasizing the professional in professional development, and facilitating a process.
Some of the best effects on teachers are instructional change, collaborative work and richer more educationally substantive assessment. This resulted in enriched academic environments for students, increases equity in access to the curriculum, improved attitudes, attendance and behavior, and assessment results.
For the A+ Schools, the most powerful connections seem to center around arts integration that drives school reform, develops better assessment and results in greater learning for all students. Yes now.